On The impending decline of worldwide oil productiongreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
On the impending decline of worldwide oil production
Alistair W. McCrone
Sunday, March 4, 2001, ©2001 San Francisco Chronicle
THE WORLD is going out of the oil business.
Though mostly unreported in the mainstream press, this trend is documented by Water Youngquist and other scientists in scholarly and technical journals.
In the Oil and Gas Journal, C.J. Campbell reported in 1997 that while the world now consumes about 25 billion barrels of oil a year, we are discovering fewer than than 5.5 billion new barrels annually.
In Scientific American, Campbell and J.H. Laherrere observed in 1998 that the discovery rate of oil worldwide has been falling ever since it "peaked in the early 1960s." And about 80 percent of current world oil production "flows from fields that were found before 1973, many of which are declining. American oil production peaked in 1970.
World oil production per capita peaked in 1979. World population doubled to 6 billion between 1960 and 2000. According to well-researched estimates, world population continues to grow by some 200,000 people per day. This, plus increases in per capita energy consumption, virtually guarantees that the demand for energy, including that based on oil and natural gas, will accelerate.
Fuel and electricity are the most obvious products of oil and natural gas, but also consider these: fertilizers, a vast array of industrial and agricultural chemicals, medicines, plastics, paints and hundreds of other products that make possible the world's current standards and styles of living.
Given current projections of production and consumption trends, we are nearly halfway through the time of oil. While worldwide demand continues to accelerate, worldwide production is predicted to begin to decline around 2010. After that, materials produced from petroleum, and economic and social structures supported by oil income, will have to be curtailed.
This will occur slowly at first but with increasing swiftness within 50 years or less-- unless viable alternatives are found, developed and massively implemented.
Current electricity supply and price problems are but the beginning of consequent price increases on a much wider and larger scale.
Some try to maintain the illusion that OPEC members (Saudi Arabia and others) can meet world oil demand at will. The folly of this misconception -- which, in 2000, Campbell called the "myth of spare capacity" -- will become uncomfortably obvious in the near future when OPEC production begins to decline, with attendant price increases.
If we wish to sustain the living standards and styles of the developed and developing countries, we should do the following: Greatly intensify conservation efforts, develop our untapped national offshore and onshore oil and gas resources, use coal more broadly again as a major energy and by- products resource, develop solar and wind power much more extensively and reconsider employing nuclear energy for electricity -- all the while considering environmental impacts.
At best, these combined efforts will simply delay the inevitable demise of oil and natural gas as major sources of energy and their many beneficial byproducts. We must also keep in mind that large amounts of energy will be needed, at an increasingly high cost, to develop and implement such alternatives.
Ironically, such energy will have to come largely from oil and gas. Given our knowledge of available options (as displeasing as some people might view them), and given the time and cost to implement them, the conflict is bound to escalate between environmental activists and consumers and suppliers of energy resources.
Meanwhile, common sense demands that we adjust our living styles and adopt new standards of "quality of life" to reduce our thirst for oil and gas. If we do not make such changes voluntarily, we will doubtless be forced to when we are ill-prepared.
It is tragic that these realities have been ignored for so long by our political leaders, business planners and social policy makers, and that desperately needed public and private investment has seriously slackened in both conventional and alternative energy research.
As Aldous Huxley put it, "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
Now, in light of the facts, the need for responsible, aggressive and immediate action, including the development of a long-range national energy and population policy, is both essential and urgent.
Alistair W. McCrone, a former petroleum geologist, is president of Humboldt State University in Arcata.
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 23
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